B.C. is launching a new screening program to detect early signs of lung cancer, the province announced Monday.
The program is the first of its kind in Canada and is expected to be running by spring 2022, screening up to 20,000 patients a year at clinics across the province.
Premier John Horgan said the program has been needed for "a long, long time."
"At a time when we are dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, it's easy to forget that many families around the province are grappling with a cancer diagnosis. Cancer doesn't wait for global pandemics, and we know that early detection can save lives."
Six people die of lung cancer in B.C. every day. It's the most common cause of death from cancer in Canada and around the world, yet 70 per cent of lung cancers are only diagnosed when they reach advanced stages, Horgan said.
Lung cancer kills more people than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined, according to Benoit Morin, president and chief executive officer of the Provincial Health Services Authority.
The new screening program will use existing CT scanning technology and will mean more treatment options, faster recovery and better outcomes for patients, Horgan said.
It's estimated that 300 people will be diagnosed each year through the screening program.
"These changes give people hope, give people opportunity to get early treatment because they got early diagnosis," Horgan said.
The program will target adults between the ages of 55 and 74 who smoke or have a heavy smoking history. Lung cancer primarily affects people over the age of 50.
The news conference came on a day two-thirds of B.C. is blanketed in thick smoke from wildfires burning out of control in Washington state, Oregon and California.
Dr. Kim Chi, vice-president and chief medical officer of B.C. Cancer, said air quality and pollution are tied to cancer and other pulmonary illnesses.
As global warming occurs, this will continue to pose a problem for the future, he said.
"I think today's announcement around lung cancer screening is an important part of early detection and preventing and detecting cancers at an earlier stage where we can have increased change of curing and improving survival," Chi said.